Guests: David Corn, Bob Shrum, Joe Williams, Louis Susman, Christina Haag
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Poster boy. Donald Trump has made an impression.
Let‘s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I‘m Chris Matthews down in Washington. Leading off tonight: Trump the vulgarian? If you‘re a Republican, when even Fox is suggesting you‘ve jumped the shark, maybe you‘re in trouble. Donald Trump was bottom feeding in Las Vegas last night, using the F-bomb as an applause line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: They want to go in and raise the price of oil because we have nobody in Washington that sits back and said, You‘re not going to raise that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) price, you understand me?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, it worked for them, but that was no accident. Trump‘s speech was filled with vulgar chest thumping and tough talk. Has this guy decided to be a carnival act, or does he really plan to run for president this way?
Plus: Woody Allen said it best, 80 percent of life is just showing up. President Bush learned that lesson after Katrina and President Obama learned it after the gulf oil spill. When disaster strikes, a president needs to show up. Mr. Obama‘s poll numbers, by the way, are drifting, even slipping right now, and today he showed up in Alabama to survey the tornado damage.
Also, they‘re now the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. William and Kate tied the knot in a private little affair watched by about a billion or two billion people today. We‘ll talk to one of the few Americans who was actually in Westminster Abbey and also ask him about what the Brits think of us and this birther madness.
Anyway, and American royalty tonight. We‘ve Jack Kennedy‘s old girlfriend to talk about his short life of adventure on the edge, a former girlfriend, as I said, Christina Haig (ph), on life with the young John Kennedy.
And “Let Me Finish” tonight with the love, actually, the British feel for their country.
We start with Donald Trump‘s vulgarities. David Corn is the Washington bureau chief for “Mother Jones” and is an MSNBC political analyst and Bob Shrum—Shrummy‘s here, and he‘s a Democratic strategist.
Shrum I am really stunned by this, I have to tell you, because after Wednesday, I thought there‘d be some sort of...
MATTHEWS: ... “come to Jesus” or something moment for Donald Trump. He‘d bet all his money on the idea that the president had a problem with his birth certificate. The president showed him crystal clear he had no problem. And then Trump went off on this thing.
Let‘s watch and then you react to this. Here he was last night in Vegas. It happened in Vegas. It didn‘t stay there. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They want to go in and raise the price of oil because we have nobody in Washington that sits back and said you‘re not going to raise that (EXPLETIVE DELETED) price, you understand me?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: We build another school. We build another road. They blow them up. We build again. Meantime, we can‘t get a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) school built in Brooklyn! It‘s unbelievable!
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: The messenger is important. I could have one man say, We‘re going to tax you 25 percent. And I could say another, Listen, you mother-(EXPLETIVE DELETED), we‘re going to tax you 25 percent.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, you were a speech writer for all those years, Bob. You know how a speech is written. This isn‘t (INAUDIBLE) accidentally used a bad word. I‘ve done it by accident, when you‘re talking, you think you‘re colloquial and you make a mistake and use a word you shouldn‘t. Here‘s a speech that was crafted with an F-word in it for a particular effect on a Vegas Republican audience. What is Donald Trump trying to do with this kind of rhetoric?
BOB SHRUM, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, it says something about the family values party that he was getting all the applause while that was going on. Secondly, I think he‘s...
MATTHEWS: Well, the Sharron Angle party, actually, out there.
SHRUM: Yes. I understand...
MATTHEWS: This is the crowd that gave you Sharron Angle.
SHRUM: Well, except the possibility is the Sharron Angle party, if they take over the primaries, might nominate someone like Donald Trump, who makes Sarah Palin look like a serious figure. Look, we know two things about Trump. One, he‘s not going to be elected president of the United States, ever. In the Gallup/”USA Today” poll, 63 percent of people say they wouldn‘t vote for him, period.
Number two, he‘s running near the top of the pack in the Republican field right now. If the Republican Party would do that, they would replicate 1964, except Barry Goldwater was a serious figure...
SHRUM: ... and he was just wrong. And I think they‘d go down to crashing defeat.
MATTHEWS: But Bob, I have to ask you this. As a craftsman, as well as a thoughtful person, you know how to craft a speech. Why would he use the F-word in a speech to an audience on purpose? What exactly—is he bottom feeding here? Is he going for the most ugly, angry people who love grossness because they‘re feeling gross? What‘s it about? This is a turn of events here last night.
SHRUM: Well, I think he‘s a version of Howard Beale in “Network.” I also think this guy is a billionaire not just in dollars but in arrogance. And it‘s possible that he wrote it in or had it written in for him. It‘s also possible that this guy thinks he can just stand up and talk and say whatever he wants. But intentionally—using it once could have been a mistake. Using it over and over and over again, he knows exactly what he‘s doing and he‘s trying to come up with a 21st century equivalent of “I‘m mad as hell and I‘m not going to take it anymore.”
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you‘re right. This is—this is viral now, obviously. It isn‘t just staying in Vegas. You use language like that will turn up—I think Bob‘s right, except that not—putting sarcasm aside, I think the Christian right will be turned off by this. I think certain elements on the right will be turned off.
MATTHEWS: That crowd obviously ate it up. I don‘t think all the Republicans in that audience, by the way, liked what they heard, David. My guess.
DAVID CORN, “MOTHER JONES,” MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: It‘s not insignificant that this happened in Vegas. Donald Trump just lost a big bet this week, the biggest bet he‘s made in a while. And what do gamblers often do when they lose a big bet?
MATTHEWS: Double down.
CORN: They double down. They go in for more. The find another big bet. But the thing is, too, we can focus on the rhetoric and the F-bombs, but there‘s something else here. He‘s a phony. In 2008, he gave an interview up in New York to New York 1 in which he said, We need to have a reasonable dialogue with our enemies abroad and other states. And he was sort of comparing himself to George Bush. Bush did it wrong. We need to talk reasonably to people.
CORN: Now three years later, what is he saying? I‘m the guy out there who can take off their F‘ing backsides. And it‘s completely different.
CORN: This guy will say...
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s...
CORN: He‘ll say anything.
MATTHEWS: I don‘t know whether Fox has dropped him or not. Let‘s see. Here‘s the reaction on Fox News today. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that is a man who wants to be president of the United States—perhaps. He may be toying with us. We don‘t know. But has Trump once and for all jumped the shark with this speech? Here with today‘s “Political Power Play,” Chris Stirewalt, Fox News digital politics editor. You seem to think he has, Chris.
CHRIS STIREWALT, FOX NEWS DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR: Well, look, John, I mean, it‘s a rough week for Mr. Trump in terms of his credibility, which has been, shall we say, strained to begin with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, I have a thought here. And (INAUDIBLE) Roger Ailes has a lot of influence on what goes on on Fox. Just a thought. And Bob Shrum, you know he‘s smart. He‘s angry sometimes against the liberal establishment, but he‘s smart. He must know that this is really stinking up the right. This Trump performance lately, this focusing on ethnicity, saying the president is out there playing basketball, this isn‘t even code anymore about the game he‘s been playing, saying he must have—he couldn‘t have possibly gotten into quality schools because, let‘s face it, he‘s black, that game that he‘s been playing out there. Ailes must know you can‘t go this far.
What do you think, Bob? You think—we just saw him, I think, skunked by his own network over there. They‘re dumping on—on the chance of this guy being serious. That‘s what I heard.
SHRUM: Well, I think Ailes is very shrewd. I think he understands that Trump not only hurts the right, but that every single Republican strategist except those that Trump put on his payroll doesn‘t want this guy anywhere near the Republican nomination for president because...
MATTHEWS: I think that‘s smart.
SHRUM: ... he if he gets it, they‘ll go down to crashing defeat.
MATTHEWS: I think the longer he continues—you know, I know you‘re a man of progressive beliefs, but let‘s analyze this.
CORN: I can do that.
MATTHEWS: Do you think he—do you think guys like Roger Ailes want him to be out there? Do you think the smart people on the right, the Bill Kristols, do you think they think that‘s a good image?
CORN: Oh, of course not. It is—this is the sort of caricature of the Republican Party, the party of celebrity billionaires who don‘t care about other people and it shows they‘re not serious.
MATTHEWS: ... let‘s face it.
CORN: Listen, I do think, though, that in the long run, this might help someone like Mitt Romney, who‘s sort of...
MATTHEWS: Does he have the cojones?
CORN: ... who could rise out of the ashes...
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) and say I refuse to challenge the president on the fact he can only play basketball, he can‘t get into Ivy League schools. I refuse to challenge him anymore about not being able to write a good book because he‘s obviously not literate enough to do it. I will not play that dirty game. He could come out here and look like a hero to a lot of Americans!
CORN: You mean Mitt Romney?
MATTHEWS: Yes, why doesn‘t Romney come out? This is a perfect opportunity!
CORN: I think he will. I think he‘ll—I think...
MATTHEWS: When‘s he going to do it?
CORN: I think him and Pawlenty, anybody, Mitch Daniels, will look like...
MATTHEWS: By the way...
CORN: ... a piece of gold compared to this guy!
MATTHEWS: Listen closely. Can you hear them doing it now?
CORN: No, not yet.
MATTHEWS: Shrum, can you hear any Republican coming out and saying...
MATTHEWS: ... This guy‘s (INAUDIBLE) our values are equal opportunity for everybody in this country. Our values are everybody gets a break in this country, and we‘re not prejudiced against anybody. We don‘t assume a guy can‘t write, we don‘t assume a guy can‘t pass an SAT or a law school board score. We don‘t assume anything about a person because we‘re colorblind. The way Trump‘s been playing this is he‘s anything but colorblind.
SHRUM: Yes. Look, he‘s just seizing onto every demagogic issue he can. I think people like Romney, Mitch McConnell and Boehner, who‘ve given sort of semi-evasive answers on this birther question...
SHRUM: ... I take the president at his word—are in terror at the Republican right. They look at what happened in the primaries last year...
MATTHEWS: I think you‘re right.
SHRUM: ... they look at nominating someone like Christine O‘Donnell in Delaware and they‘re scared. I want to say one other thing...
MATTHEWS: Why aren‘t they scared of this?
SHRUM: The first time I ever heard—what?
SHRUM: Well, they‘re scared of this, but they also have to deal with this pressure on the right and with the fear that they have that they‘re going to knock themselves out of contention for the nomination because they‘re going to anger...
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK, let‘s...
SHRUM: ... the extremists in the Republican Party.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s watch some more of this—I‘m sorry, guys. Let‘s watch some more of this tonight. We only have a chance here. Here‘s Trump on Iraq making your point. This isn‘t normal talk. Let‘s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know, in the old days—I‘m, like, an old-fashioned warrior. The old days, when you had a war and you won the war, it was yours. When we have a war—it‘s amazing. When we have a war, we go in, we lose thousands of lives, tens of thousands wounded, spend a trillion-five, and then you know what we do? We leave. Nothing. What did we do this for? So I said We go in, we take the oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: You know, that is rotten. That‘s like we liberated Paris and Europe...
MATTHEWS: ... grab Paris. We should own Germany.
CORN: Well, it‘s...
MATTHEWS: We should own every country we‘ve ever liberated. We‘re the good guys, damn it! I do not understand how he can sell this argument to an audience and have them say, yes, we ought to be—you know, we ought to...
MATTHEWS: We ought to be colonialists and grab all the oil.
MATTHEWS: Who would applaud that?
CORN: This is ugly Americanism.
CORN: You know, that‘s what it was. And what he‘s doing here...
MATTHEWS: Ugly Americanism.
CORN: This is what Bob was talking about a moment ago, too. He is trying to capitalize on whatever anger he senses is out there. With the birtherism, it was just general anger at Obama for being different and was racist, whatever.
CORN: That fell through, so now he‘s looking for another source of anger to tap. He doesn‘t care about whether he‘s right or wrong on the policy matter. He doesn‘t care if it‘s consistent with his own history. This is about ratings. He is trying to find a market for the Donald Trump reality show.
MATTHEWS: (INAUDIBLE) You know what I think? This is bottom feeding below the Rupert Murdoch level, Bob. This is going down to way subterranean, submarine levels. You got to really (INAUDIBLE) down the ocean (ph) to try to get the kind of people that want to hear this kind of stuff.
SHRUM: Look, the guy is willing to—obviously willing to say anything. He has a delusion that he can be president of the United States, which he can‘t be. I guess he‘s bored with his buildings. But I‘ll tell you what he‘s doing. He‘s polluting his brand. If I lived in one of those buildings right now, in a co-op or a condo, I‘d push the condo board to take his name off the building. Who wants to live in a building named for somebody everyone‘s laughing at?
MATTHEWS: Well, let‘s take a look at this. I think a lot of African-Americans, by the way, are not laughing at this anymore. A lot of people here—this isn‘t even code. This is English he‘s speaking. Here‘s Trump on his decision. Let‘s listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I‘m going to make a decision fairly soon, and I would rather -
you know, I love my life. Phil (ph) can tell you. I‘m having a great time. I‘ve built a great company. I have a television show that‘s one of the top shows. It‘s the top show on NBC. It‘s the number one show on NBC. It‘s doing great. Even “The New York Times” the other day wrote a nice little piece about it, talking about how great the ratings were. It won the evening. It wins the 10:00 o‘clock hour for the whole week. It‘s a great show. I mean, I have to give a lot of stuff up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Well, do you think—Bob Shrum, do you think he won‘t run because it requires shaking hands? He won‘t shake hands with people. I‘m dead serious now. Will that be enough of an excuse for him not to run? I think he needs an excuse to get out of this thing. Is that his exit strategy, I don‘t want to touch anybody?
SHRUM: Germs. But he...
MATTHEWS: I‘m serious, Bobby! He won‘t talk—he won‘t touch people.
SHRUM: But he—I know. But he—well, he‘s apparently done it out on the trail now. And you know, he‘ll just use a lot of that goo you put on your hands and you wipe it...
CORN: Or that you put in your hair!
SHRUM: ... and supposedly, it takes the germs away. But it won‘t take away—and you just said something very important, Chris. It‘s not just that the guy is a laughingstock, it‘s that what he‘s saying is despicable. And what I wanted to say earlier was that the first time I ever heard about Barack Obama, years and years and years ago, was from one of the great constitutional scholars of our time, Larry Tribe, who teaches at Harvard law school, who told me, I have the most amazing student who is so smart that it‘s unbelievable.
And he then went on to write a piece with Larry in the Harvard Law Review that, frankly, is so—it‘s so elevated, it‘s tough to read, called “The Curvature of Constitutional Space.” Donald Trump, I‘m sure, couldn‘t get through it.
SHRUM: So you know, all of this is a code word for racism. All of it is a code word for anger. And I wish the guy would go away.
MATTHEWS: Well, that—I can‘t beat that. David Corn, and thank you, Bob Shrum.
SHRUM: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Coming up: President Obama‘s poll numbers are slipping a bit, but he‘s out there campaigning now in a way none of his Republican rivals can do. He‘s all over the place, especially in the South today. Let‘s see that ahead.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: Well, President Obama‘s struggling in two states that could be crucial, in fact, will be battleground states in 2012. According to the new Quinnipiac poll from Pennsylvania, 52 percent say he doesn‘t deserve a second term, and he needs Pennsylvania. And he‘s in a statistical tie against a generic Republican challenger with 40 percent in the Keystone state.
And up in New Hampshire, the Granite State, the poll numbers show Mitt Romney leading the president by 7 points, 50 to 43. That‘s going to be a close one.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL. President Obama‘s poll numbers are slipping nationwide, but today he visited two important states. He stopped by the Kennedy Space Center down in Florida, a place that‘s actually suffering job losses due to the shutdown of the shuttle program in that crucial battleground state of Florida. And earlier today, he toured the disaster zone in Alabama. Let‘s watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to just make a commitment to the communities here that we are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild. We go through hard times, but no matter how hard we may be tested, we maintain our faith and we look to each other to make sure that we‘re supporting each other and helping each other. And I‘m sure that that spirit is going to continue until this city‘s all the way back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: So where do these trips get the president? Richard Wolffe
I know his name, move the prompter! -- is an MSNBC political analyst.
And Joe Williams joins us. He a new fellow on the block. He‘s Politico‘s White House correspondent.
I‘m going to let the new guy—for us, Joe—the president—you know, we‘ve been trying to figure this out, and I find it fascinating because sometimes you get tired of politicians, Jimmy Carter had that problem, I think, at some point and people don‘t want to see them again for a while. This president—every time he goes out and does a lot of this whirly-bird running around the country, doing Oprah and all that stuff, he tends to go up in the numbers. He bounces up to about 50. When he fades and does—is sort of relaxed and (INAUDIBLE) exercise, whatever, does his own thing, disappears from public view for a while, he drops.
What‘s your sense as a reporter of covering him, why he has to go out there and do these, “I‘m with you” kind of appearances?
JOE WILLIAMS, POLITICO: Well, the sense is—and this sort of reminds me of a moment that Lyndon Johnson had back in the ‘60s, where after Hurricane Betsy, he went down to New Orleans...
WILLIAMS: ... touring the place. He walks into a darkened shelter and he‘s got the flashlight. He says: “I am your president. I am here to help you.”
MATTHEWS: I love it.
WILLIAMS: And, basically, that‘s the notion that these sort of trips get across, particularly when a president goes to disaster zones.
But still he is quite popular with the people. I mean, you might check a couple other polls that suggest—suggest that his personal popularity is quite high. His political popularity is still a bit dicey.
But, in essence, what you get when the president travels on the road, you get Air Force One landing in a small city, getting a lot of press coverage. You get the presidential motorcade. And people can‘t help but get excited about that, because even though he‘s a very familiar face, a presidential visit for most of the country is quite rare.
We take it for granted here in Washington because this is what we do, but out on the road, he still generates a lot of excitement.
WILLIAMS: People still want to see him because he is who he is and because he still carries the personal charisma that won him—that took him so far in 2008.
MATTHEWS: Well, that‘s an amazingly interesting, intricate look at it, because there‘s three aspects to a president. He‘s president and he‘s here.
MATTHEWS: That‘s one story. The second is, I sort of like the guy.
I disagree with him.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTHEWS: And the other is, I don‘t like what he‘s doing. And I don‘t like what he‘s doing is where he‘s doing on job approval, or not like him.
But this thing about him being more personally likable than his job performance would suggest it helps to get out there.
WOLFFE: Personal numbers for still high for him, not the job approval numbers, the personal numbers. And, by the way, he is called Barack Hussein Obama, OK? This is still the guy who represents something different.
MATTHEWS: What did you call him?
WOLFFE: Barack Hussein Obama. That‘s his middle name.
WOLFFE: You know? You may—it doesn‘t matter. The point is that...
MATTHEWS: I thought you said Barack “Saint” Obama. That‘s what I thought you said.
WOLFFE: OK. No. No.
WOLFFE: That‘s just something for our blog fans.
You know, when you look at how he has to campaign, it is as an outsider. So the more he looks like a familiar politician, just another guy in a suit, the worse it looks. Every time he‘s stuck a podium—this is the lesson, the hard lesson they learned in the first couple of years—the worse it is for him. The more he gets out, the more he‘s campaigning, the better he is.
MATTHEWS: Yes. OK.
I wrote a book on this, Joe and Richard. You may not have seen it, but I once wrote a whole chapter of a book, which actually sold a lot of copies back when. And you know what it was? I basically said, if you close your eyes and think of the president behind a desk somewhere, like Bob Dole, Nixon, one of those, he‘s going to lose.
WILLIAMS: Right. Exactly. Exactly.
MATTHEWS: If you think about him—if you think about him as a guy out there in the sun, with the sun in his face, walking around...
WILLIAMS: Short sleeves rolled up.
MATTHEWS: .. looking like a cowboy, sleeves rolled up, he wins.
Mondale, indoor. Dole, indoor. You can always say—Dukakis, indoor. These other guys—and maybe it‘s—we will talk about it, Joe, because it‘s exactly what we‘re talking about here. And that explains why here he is out in the sun, shirt sleeves, looking—he‘s always been fit, looking like a million bucks, looking like a guy.
WILLIAMS: Exactly. He is—he is somebody that you can to relate to. He becomes real. He‘s somebody on the ground who cares. At least that‘s the inference that they‘re trying to get across when they have these trips, especially to areas that have been hard hit by troubles.
And, again, I think it was mentioned earlier in the program the first part of disaster recovery, if you‘re in the White House, is showing up, showing that you care. And being out there and delivering the common touch, talking with ordinary people dehumanizes you, takes you—or humanizes you, rather—takes you away from the stodgy, sort of Washington insidery mode that you would get stuck in inside D.C., and shows that you do care about the country, no matter what your policies might be.
MATTHEWS: Keep going.
WOLFFE: And, certainly, there aren‘t any—there aren‘t any Tea Partiers exactly in—in disaster sites as well. So, that carries the whole anti-government argument...
MATTHEWS: By the way, you raised a point. I saw a poll today in my favorite conservative newspaper, “The Washington Examiner,” this morning, as a shopper.
You know, even in the Republican Party, which is the most conservative of the parties, obviously, the Tea Parties are only doing about 60 percent.
MATTHEWS: Outside, they‘re not popular.
MATTHEWS: It‘s stunning, you know, very unpopular among independents, among Democrats overwhelmingly unpopular. Even among Republicans, just three out of five—that‘s not exactly—and they‘re—and they‘re benefiting from Tea Party.
WOLFFE: Let‘s just remember, what do people want at a time of disaster like this? They want government.
WILLIAMS: The government.
WOLFFE: They want federal government help. So, in the bigger...
MATTHEWS: Is it going to hurt him that he‘s cutting jobs in the space program down in Florida?
WOLFFE: Local level, yes. But remember as well, he‘s taking a hit here for doing the kind of budget cuts that Republicans want more of. That just shows that is they really push it hard, they‘re all going to suffer. So...
MATTHEWS: You mean they‘re real?
WOLFFE: They‘re real.
MATTHEWS: Just not talk.
WOLFFE: That‘s not—deficit cutting does not create jobs. It cuts jobs. That‘s the point.
MATTHEWS: Well, everybody...
WILLIAMS: That‘s the point.
MATTHEWS: Everybody wanted to cut everything unless they realize they had to cut something.
MATTHEWS: And then they‘re, oh, we have to cut something, not just everything?
Cutting everything is easy, Joe. Cutting something like Medicare, and these guy have their own Tea Parties coming at them.
Here‘s—take a look at the president‘s poll numbers, not so great. Pollster.com is the average of the president‘s job approval around the country. His disapproval number is up to 50.6, just above middle, disapproval down to 44.
Can you read that in your mind, Joe, as you cover him? Can you sense when he‘s up and down covering him?
WILLIAMS: You can sort of sense inside Washington that that‘s sort of the sense that everybody‘s walking around with.
But, again, these are fairly early numbers relative to 2012. And it‘s also numbers compared to what? Compared to who might be the Republican nominee...
WILLIAMS: ... who might even be more unpopular if you get a Tim Pawlenty, let‘s say, or—Romney is doing well in New Hampshire, but that‘s his backyard. Let‘s see what happens on a national scale.
You do have a guy who looks very good out on the stump. That‘s his sort of natural habitat, if you will. And his job performance, while most people would give it low marks, certainly people would have—would find it hard to argue that he came in with a tough hand ahead of him. He came in with a lot of problems in the inbox.
MATTHEWS: Yes, but one number is going up, though, Joe. One number is—in all fairness, one number is going up. And that‘s the gasoline number. I know the market‘s up. Unemployment‘s down. There are some good things in terms of where he started, but the unemployment, the gas number is going up.
I have watched three presidents basically now run from office, Jimmy Carter, and Jerry Ford, and Nixon was really—that was the economics behind it. These gas lines and these high prices for the pump kill politicians.
WOLFFE: It‘s absolutely ugly.
And things—I think the other crucial number you might hear is 8.9, unemployment rate. If it goes down, continues to go down, the White House feels like they‘re in good shape. If it stays high, it‘s‘s signaling trouble, along with high gas prices. Inflation is starting to creep up. Things are costing more than they used to.
So, there‘s a very real—clouds on the horizon here. The question is, what can be done to control that and what is within the president‘s power to make it seem like action is being taken to address the very real problems that people are facing?
So, there is a very tough hand ongoing.
MATTHEWS: Yes, I‘m sorry.
Richard, when you get—when you get talk to the pols around the president, as you‘re writing books and getting into the deep stuff, how are they going to deal with the fact if we have $5.50 gas next year? Do they know what that does?
MATTHEWS: And you‘re not talking at the opponent. You‘re not saying how boring Pawlenty is or how dull Mitt Romney is. You‘re thinking, I have got to something about gas prices. I have got to vote no.
WOLFFE: Yes. No, they do think about it.
The truth is, there‘s not a lot of they can do. They can talk about long-term solutions, let‘s go to green energy and all that stuff. But they saw how it hurt Bush II.
WOLFFE: And the problem is that consumer confidence gets hit by that, even as it‘s kind of improving because unemployment is coming down. So it acts as a counterbalance to the better economic news. It makes it much, much harder for—the campaign they want to run is, it‘s morning in America. And what are you going to say? It‘s sort of morning in America? Morning is on the way?
It means that it‘s still out of reach. And every time they think they‘re getting some momentum on the economy, it slips away. That‘s what they are facing now. That‘s what they had a year ago with the Gulf oil spill.
MATTHEWS: OK, story of the week, Joe, why did they put the birth certificate out, when that‘s decoying all the crazies out there, showing them to be crazy? Did they do it for the presidency or they did for the politics or for the country?
MATTHEWS: What do you think was the reason they put—they flashed that paper finally this Wednesday?
WILLIAMS: I would suggest probably all three.
I mean, that‘s a very sort of interesting question as to timing. Certainly, it helped deflate Donald Trump, because now there‘s a lot of open talk about buffoonery...
MATTHEWS: Yes, I think you‘re right.
WILLIAMS: ... about the fact that this was not a serious guy to begin with. OK, let‘s all just take a deep breath and get back to work on the real problems.
So I think that, in that regard, it was a shrewd move to try to get some of that air out of that balloon and take away the...
WILLIAMS: ... from Donald Trump.
MATTHEWS: Well, wasn‘t that balloon good for him? Excuse me.
MATTHEWS: Wasn‘t that good for the president to have a man acting so maniacal out there and so I think ethnically prejudicial, actually, in the way he behaved? Wasn‘t that helpful in terms of moving the center toward the president?
WILLIAMS: Well, it sort of poisoned the well, if you will, because not only was it speaking very, very loudly and very clearly to the fringe. It also was having sort of an deleterious impact on the middle-of-the-road voters. It was infecting the larger well of votes that he will have to draw from.
MATTHEWS: I see.
WILLIAMS: It was starting to show up in polls, where people were starting to believe this. Certain polls showed that even 40 percent, upwards of 40 percent of people still have questions.
WILLIAMS: That‘s a very real political problem that they had to tackle.
MATTHEWS: Joe Williams, where have you been, sir? We have not had you on until now. And I‘m glad you‘re on. Please come back again. You are a great guest. Thank you, sir.
And, Richard, I don‘t have to salute you.
WILLIAMS: My pleasure.
WOLFFE: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: You have been such a great guest for so long. You know, you‘re like...
MATTHEWS: ... older brother. We take you for granted.
Anyway, up next...
MATTHEWS: ... why is—by the way, congratulations, best of Britain.
You still have a piece of that in you, by the way.
WOLFFE: Just a bit.
MATTHEWS: Anyway, thank you.
The Man of Steel himself is renouncing his American citizenship. I think it‘s a technicality, lots of moral reservation here for the great Man of Steel.
That‘s next in the “Sideshow.” You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on
MATTHEWS: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the “Sideshow.”
First up: Condi Rice is ready for prime time. That‘s right. The former secretary of state made a cameo on last night‘s “30 Rock” on NBC as the ex-girlfriend of Alec Baldwin‘s character, Jack Donaghy, who tried to get her help, by the way, to free his wife after she‘s abducted by Kim Jong Il.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “30 ROCK”)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, look what the cat dragged in.
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Hello, Condi. You are looking well.
RICE: You know, I have been to the DMZ. They have signs. Can your wife not read?
BALDWIN: OK. We are all adults here.
RICE: So, what is it? Is she funnier than me? She‘s certainly not younger, is she?
BALDWIN: Condi, we are not doing this.
RICE: Oh, we are doing this.
BALDWIN: I‘m sorry that I broke up with you by text. I‘m sorry I went drinking with Karl Rove on Valentine‘s Day. I‘m sorry that I said that your favorite movie was lame.
RICE: “Mars Attacks” is awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: She‘s really good, I mean frighteningly good. Condi is a natural. It would be beastly of me to say on this British day that she showed us she was quite a good actress all those years as she talked up W.
Next up: truth, justice and not the American way. In a new issue of “Action Comics,” Superman declares—quote—“I‘m tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy.”
The Man of Steel says he‘s going to renounce his U.S. citizenship after Iran misconstrues his in-person support for protesters in Tehran as an act of U.S. war.
Well, pure mental reservation, I say, on the part of the Man of Steel.
He would never give it up, being American.
Next up: more strange brew. After boldly vetoing a birther bill from her state‘s legislature yesterday, along with one to allow guns on school campuses, now Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed a bill making the Colt Single Action Army Revolver the official state gun of Arizona.
Well, the Colt gun company supported the new law, obviously. And, conveniently enough, the company is selling a 175th anniversary edition of the gun on their Web site.
Well, I say better symbolic gunplay by the governor than the zaniness of having students bringing guns to campus.
And, finally, tonight‘s “Big Number.”
President Obama berated Republican fund-raising groups last fall that didn‘t disclose their donors. Well, today, we found out that Democrats, Democrats plan to fight fire with fire. Two new groups called Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action will be led by former Obama White House staffers, and they won‘t disclose donors for some of the money they raise.
How much do they plan to raise? One hundred million dollars. Tonight‘s the “Big Number”: $100 million for outside groups helping the president. And we don‘t know where some of it came from. I say this is a great case of what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called defining deviancy downward. They‘re both doing it.
Up next: the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton today. We have got one of the few Americans who was actually inside Westminster Abbey, the American ambassador to the U.K., to talk about the wedding, the monarchy and what the Brits over there think about this birther craziness here at home.
And later: a new look at the life of John F. Kennedy Jr., who had the opportunity to interview—I had the opportunity to interview back in 1996.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
JULIA BOORSTIN, CNBC CORRESPONDENT: I‘m Julia Boorstin with your CNBC “Market Wrap.”
Stocks—stocks wrapping up the week and the month on a very positive note, the Dow Jones industrials climbing 47 points to finish at a three-year high, the S&P 500 adding three, and the Nasdaq eking out a one-point gape.
Take a look at how the major indices did in April, big gains across the board driven by strong corporate earnings and a weaker dollar. We‘re about halfway through earnings season and so far it‘s been a big win -- 73 percent of companies reporting have beaten Wall Street expectations. Only 15 percent missed.
Today, we had Caterpillar with a huge earnings beat on a 92 percent jump in domestic sales. Drugmaker Merck also delivering better-than-expected results driven by cost-cutting and strong sales. But the dollar index is still falling, down 4 percent in April alone, 10 percent in the last five months. It‘s the dollar‘s worst losing streak in nearly seven years.
That‘s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide—now back to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HRH PRINCE WILLIAM OF WALES, UNITED KINGDOM, DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE: With this ring, I thee wed.
ROWAN WILLIAMS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY: With my body, I thee honor.
PRINCE WILLIAM: With my body I thee honor.
WILLIAMS: And all my worldly goods with thee I share.
PRINCE WILLIAM: And all my worldly goods with thee I share.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Well, all eyes were on Britain this morning as Prince William married Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Thousands lined the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the royal couple and, of course, celebrate their patriotism by waving the Union Jack.
Ambassador Louis Susman is, of course, the American ambassador to the Court of St. James. He attended the wedding this morning.
Welcome, Mr. Ambassador.
I have to ask you—I get up early like everyone else and watched many channels. What was it like to be in the church in Westminster Abbey?
LOUIS SUSMAN, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN: It was truly stunning, Chris. It was incredible, incredible event. The abbey looked absolutely gorgeous, the trees all around, the people were dressed in their best finery including hats. The monarchy was on great display and I think everyone agreed that there was a great warmth that was generated from the bride and groom that everyone felt it was almost like a family wedding.
MATTHEWS: Well, you know, what struck me watching on television, Mr. Ambassador, was the patriotism. I guess we don‘t think of the British the way we are, you know, apple pie and mom and all that and waving the flag. But boy, I never saw so many Union Jacks today. What do you think it meant to them as British people, as subjects?
SUSMAN: Well, you know, Chris, it was an exciting day for them. It was a happy day for them. It was something they could feel emotionally.
And they loved the queen. They love the monarchy. And this new generation is creating that same type of feelings.
And everybody felt it. Everybody had a smile on their face today.
It was terrific.
MATTHEWS: I noticed that. But what was it like being an American, as a Yank over there, were people coming up to you and saying, “Hey, we are pretty good at this, aren‘t we”? I mean, was there a sense of pride vis-a-vis the two English-speaking peoples today?
SUSMAN: I would suggest to you that people—I was the sole representative of our government there and everybody came up to me and was exceedingly warm, welcoming and nice. But what I found is that people outside—they didn‘t know who I was, but there were Americans out there. They had American flags and Union Jacks, tremendous amount of Americans that were here from the States to witness this historic event.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you as the monarchy, the monarchy as they say over there. Do you have a sense that this is going to give it another century or two at least? I mean, there was—there were all kinds of family problems back when, you know, and now, it seems like it‘s on an even course. Does this give it a life to the future now for the royal family?
SUSMAN: I don‘t think any question, Chris. This monarchy is in very good shape. And, you know, John Kennedy said the torch has been passed to a new generation. That‘s true here, too. And they‘re well liked. They‘re well behaved. People just love this couple. Even Prince Harry was getting all kinds of cheers.
MATTHEW: Yes. I know. He was having fun today.
Let me ask you about your friend, the president of the United States, who you represent personally over there, as well as our country. How do you think he handled this week?
I have to tell you, as the only political question I got to ask you as his representative over there. I thought he did very well in putting out his birth certificate. What stunned me and I want to know the reaction was over in England, these critics of his on the right, these birthers, they didn‘t seem satisfied. They just kept asking for the school records and all this stuff.
What‘s the British reaction to all this cockamamie?
SUSMAN: I think it‘s what the president said—they look at it as just silly. And frankly, a number of members of the government said to me that they thought it was embarrassing for the people that were claiming the birther right. I mean, it‘s silly season as far as they‘re concerned.
MATTHEWS: Well, Louis Susman, ambassador to the Court of St. James
I‘m so glad at you, pal, that got this chance of a lifetime to represent our great country to that great country. I can‘t think of a better ambassador, a better envoy for us today. I‘m glad you had a good time, as well. Thank you so much. See you soon.
SUSMAN: We had a great time, Chris, and the president‘s going to be here on a State visit. So, it‘s all exciting.
MATTHEWS: Well, say hello to your lovely wife, as well. Thank you so much—Louis Susman, U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James.
Wonderful fellow representing us over there.
Up next, from British royalty to American royalty, John F. Kennedy, Jr., the son of the former president, was a risk-taker, I guess. Well, he lived on the edge. Former girlfriend, Christina Haag, is going to join us. She‘s written a memoir about their time together, many years together.
She‘ll join us next.
MATTHEWS: Yesterday, we told you that the Indiana governor Mitch Daniels was on the fence of whether to sign or veto a measure that would make Indiana the first state to cut off all government funding for Planned Parenthood. Well, today, Governor Daniels cast his lot here. He says he‘ll sign the bill. That does annoyed conservatives last year when he said there should be a truce on the social issues. Signing this bill is going to help him with those social conservatives who he‘ll need if he decides to run for president.
What a decision that was. I don‘t think it‘s going to help him with the general public.
We‘ll be right back.
MATTHEWS: We‘re back.
Of course, the focus today was on the British monarchy as Prince William wed Catherine Middleton. But a new book focuses on an American prince, John F. Kennedy, Jr., as he grew up in the spotlight as a fun-loving daredevil, if you will. His former girlfriend, Christina Haag, writes about their friendship and later romance in her memoir called “Come to the Edge.”
Welcome, Christina. Thank you.
You know, we dug up something. I was—he was such a good guy when I got to meet him a number of times. And as you know, he was a wonderful guy. And he was nice enough to do my first interview on the first show here back here 15 years.
CHRISTINA HAAG, “COME TO THE EDGE” AUTHOR: Wow.
MATTHEWS: I look somewhat different. He looked always great.
HAAG: We all did, right?
MATTHEWS: Well, he looks great.
MATTHEWS: Here he is telling me about President Nixon the night that Nixon invited him, his mother and his sister to the White House back in 1971. He‘s recounting the whole night with us. Here he is, John F. Kennedy Jr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, JR., PRESIDENT KENNEDY‘S SON: You know, it was very warm and he was a wonderful host. We saw the rooms where we had lived. And my sister—I was sort of a hyperactive child and my sister, had a bet with me that either I would spill my milk or my shirttail would be untucked, because that used to happen with great frequency.
So, I had gotten through most of the dinner and the shirttail was in, the milk was upright. And we were at dessert, something caught my attention and the milk went over right over his lap. And he just was very, you know, just didn‘t blink, just kind of wiped it up.
And I lost the bet and I was—I died slowly there in the corner of it. But it was a memorable evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAAG: I love that.
MATTHEWS: Well, I still have my laugh back then. So, I had my horrible (ph) laugh back then.
So, here, you have written a book about this guy, and as I said, the correspondents dinner is coming tomorrow night here in Washington. I met him, I think that was the last time I saw him.
And you had an amazing life. I looked at the pictures, I think it was in “Vanity Fair,” it was segmenting (ph) your book.
MATTHEWS: And you guys didn‘t sit around and watch movies together.
MATTHEWS: You led an amazing life.
HAAG: We had a lot of fun.
MATTHEWS: Well, obviously, but you had adventure, too. And I‘ve noticed this about the Kennedys. I‘m trying to write a book about, Jack, his father, again.
MATTHEWS: And they did life a little more on the edge. The title of your book makes perfect sense to me. Tell us about this story I‘ve heard you tell about Jamaica.
HAAG: Well, I can just say one thing, the title is actually “Come to the Edge,” not “on the edge.” And I think it‘s about embracing life to the fullest. And I think John did. And to me, it‘s also about falling in love. It is a love story. But we did have adventures.
And in Jamaica, we were kayaking once and I had a broken leg, but we were kayaking. And we got into a little trouble with a reef and a wave. We did come out of it, but it was a close call.
MATTHEWS: So, what was he like?
HAAG: What was he like? He was wonderful. He was exciting. He was a great friend. He was a great boyfriend. He was a terrific guy.
And I loved that you played that clip. I loved hearing that story.
I had heard it before. I heard him tell it, but it was great.
MATTHEWS: Well, let me—we‘ll show you more—a little more of him in action.
MATTHEWS: And your reaction what you see here. Here he is Jack Kennedy‘s kid, John Kennedy, Jr., once called John John in the papers. I think it was his nickname no matter what he says. Let‘s listen.
HAAG: We never called him that.
MATTHEWS: Oh, no.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: OK. This is an “A.P.” story, moved last week on the wires out of Albany, New York. I don‘t know why Albany. “New York‘s Democratic Party chairwoman said Friday that the mutual friend has told her John F. Kennedy, Jr. is interested in running for the U.S. Senate against Alfonse D‘Amato, Republican incumbent.”
Let me ask you this: what do you think of the quality of journalism which has a person, a writer, saying that they heard from somebody who heard from somebody who heard from somebody they were running for the Senate? Rate as a journalist, that story, John Kennedy.
KENNEDY: Well, I have a feeling that you‘re really asking if it‘s true.
KENNEDY: So, why don‘t I just dispense off the bat and say it‘s
absolutely not, that we‘re running a magazine. And as you no doubt know,
that‘s more than a full-time job. And, you know, I understand, part of the
someone once said to me, you know, journalists are in the business of harvesting attention. And if that‘s what it does, then so be it. But it‘s not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Did you ever have a sense back then when you were dating him all those years, that John Kennedy, Jr. might follow in his father‘s footsteps?
HAAG: Well, I would have voted for him. But, you know, the book
really talks about the formative years. We were 15, and we dated from 25
until we were 30. And, I think, you know, he was figuring out what he was
what he was doing. I think he knew there was that possibility there, if it ever—if he ever got behind it, but I think “George” was a good fit for him. I think, you know, he could—it was about politics, but it also had an artistic side, and he was his mother‘s son.
MATTHEWS: Tell me about his mother and how you got to know her, what her attitude was toward him? We only have 30 seconds.
HAAG: OK. She adored him. She adored him and he made her laugh, and she was—he was the apple of her eye.
MATTHEWS: OK. Thank you so much.
HAAG: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: The book is “Come to the Edge,” the delightful author, I can tell already, is delightful, Christina Haag.
When we return—go buy the book—when we return, “Let Me Finish” with that great British spirit on display today for the world. It was something to watch those people watch the royals. Very impressed with the British attitude today.
You‘re watching HARDBALL, only on MSNBC.
MATTHEWS: “Let Me Finish” tonight with the politics of what we all saw today.
I was taken, as I think you were, with the obvious patriotism on display today.
I looked out over that happy crowd in London and I saw people waving those Union Jacks, those beautiful British flags. And it was a youthful, did you notice? Healthy crowd out on a beautiful day enjoying an amazing moment of national resilience, national destiny for the British people.
The British spirit is built on a strong foundation. Of course, they all grew up of knowing of their finest hour in World War II, when that country stood alone—almost alone—against the worst menace of the 20th century, perhaps of history. We know the pride they feel in history and their institutions, especially the monarchy.
It‘s a small country now, not the great empire it was, but it still has a great spirit—wondrously on the big screen, by the way, in my favorite movies, “Love Actually.” Here is Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Billy Bob Thornton as the visiting president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUGH GRANT, ACTOR (as British prime minister): We may be a small country, but we‘re a great one, too. A country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham‘s right foot—
David Beckham‘s left foot, come to that.
And a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend. And since bullies only respond to strength, now onward, I will be prepared to be much stronger, and the president should be prepared for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Every American I know loved that scene.
We saw that spirit today there, that patriotic spirit with the British, and I say good for them. We share their joy and admire their pride and country. We know about such things.
Anyway, thank you for joining us tonight. That‘s HARDBALL for now.
More politics ahead with Cenk Uygur.
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